LIVE VIDEO STREAM: A Far Cry on Friday, September 22 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

by Maggie Molloy

Philip Glass and J.S. Bach have a lot more in common than you might think. Cascading arpeggios, rapid scales, ever-shifting counterpoint—a transcendent, almost spiritual quality to their music. It comes as no surprise to learn that Glass studied the work of Bach closely under his famous teacher Nadia Boulanger.

But don’t just take our word for it: you can listen to both composers performed LIVE right here on Second Inversion tonight by the Boston-based chamber ensemble A Far Cry. Visit this page tonight, Friday, September 22 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET for a live video of A Far Cry’s 2017-2018 season opener, streaming right here:

Check out the program below, and click here for program notes.

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048
Glass: Symphony No. 3
Bach: Concerto for Keyboard and Strings in G minor, BWV 1058

To learn more about our live-streaming video broadcasts of A Far Cry, click here.

Photo by Yoon S. Byun.


Please note: Due to restrictions, the live video stream will not include Simone Dinnerstein’s performance of Philip Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Thank you for your understanding.

 

Women In (New) Music: Du Yun’s Opera Angel’s Bone is Writing A New History

by Lauren Freman

Photo by David Adams.

There’s a fun kind of dark—take your Quentins Tarantino, your Samuels Pekinpah—a gleeful brand of hyperrealistic gore that makes you giggle uncomfortably in your seat, where the director gets lauded for “going there,” where a spray of blood is cool, a severed limb is funny.

Angel’s Bone, the 2017 Pulitzer-winning opera by Du Yun, is not that.

When stressed to extremes, our brains deprioritize recording memory accurately, and register emotion in broad strokes: fear, helplessness, pain. For this reason, Angel’s Bone’s heightened, cacophonous abstractions of violence give us a more honest representation of the experience of trauma, more real than an accurate depiction might be. If you think you might be triggered by anything related to sexual assault, drug use, or any kind of abuse, then please take good care of yourself digging into this opera.

Composed by Du Yun with a libretto by Royce Vavrek, Angel’s Bone tells the story of two angels (Boy Angel and Girl Angel, sung by Kyle Bielfield and Jennifer Charles) who have returned to Earth, only to be forced into spiritual and sexual slavery by an ordinary American couple (Mr. and Mrs. X.E, voiced by Kyle Pfortmiller and Abigail Fischer). That’s not a spoiler, that’s the premise: a barely-allegorical indictment of the horrors of human trafficking that doesn’t let you look away.

The staged production premiered in 2016 at the Prototype Festival, an NYC-based festival that showcases new works in “music-theater,” but the studio recording for Angel’s Bone drops September 22 (TOMORROW) on VIA Records. And if you’re near Brooklyn on October 7, you should absolutely attend the album release concert at the National Sawdust Theater (Take me with you? Live tweet it? Please).

This composer is very intentionally changing the landscape of classical music audiences and creators, and I am 100% here for it. In an interview with NPR’s Tom Huizenga this spring, Du Yun expressed a need for the music community to “examine what diversity really means. Diversity also means content, diversity also means styles. Diversity also means, ‘What do we want to say?’ We can’t just say one thing.”

As the music director at Music at the Anthology (MATA), she spearheads projects that amplify underrepresented voices. For example, look forward to “a three-year initiative to focus on the Islamic world, and also a series of solo concerts by female composers, called ‘A Room of One’s Own.’” Her money takes up permanent residence at where her mouth is.

One of my favorite things about Du Yun is that she pledges zero deference to the established conventions of one genre or another. In a Log Journal interview with Steve Smith, she says “We’ll be able to do so many things in so many styles, and if the content calls for that, then let’s just try it.”

While Angel’s Bone is more or less an opera in the traditional sense, each aria (song? track?) is laser-focused toward the style that tells the story best. Mrs. X.E.’s performative piety is represented in allusions to revivalist gospel in “I’ve Been Blessed,” because of course it is. The chorus of angels points to Gregorian Chant, because of course it does. Girl Angel shrieks and croaks recounting her abuse at the hands of “Brick J.” because of course she does.

Photo by Cory Weaver.

I’m prefacing this with a WHOLE LOTTA CAVEATS, but I’ll give it to ya straight: listening to Angel’s Bone was an awful experience. The performances are stunning, Du Yun’s subversion of aural expectations is deeply affecting, and the borderlessness between genres is fascinating. But. Sitting with this opera? Marinating in it for hours, watching otherwise unremarkable suburbanites brutalize extremely vulnerable people? Hurts. So. Bad.

And the question is Why. Why put audiences through that? Why put ourselves through that? Du Yun’s work is too deliberate to be intended as shock for shock’s sake, so why would she bring us so intimately close to the experiences of the victims of trafficking?

So that we would do something.

And there’s so much we can do, from influencing lawmakers to enact legislation that protects trafficking survivors, to educating ourselves, to volunteering our time or money to a nonprofit we care about—you, a presumed proponent of the arts, might be interested in checking out First Aid Arts, which equips trauma-care providers with arts-based resources.

“Art does not solve problems,” Du Yun warns. “Art, at its best, functions to provoke and suggest.” If Angel’s Bone disturbs you—and it will, and it should—then let it provoke you into action. Let it suggest that you help.

If you can, listen to this album. Have an awful experience. And then do something.


If you or someone you know is a victim of trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline to report a tip or get help.


 

Lauren Freman is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and composer, hell-bent on blurring the boundaries between high and low art. Follow her at www.freman.band, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

 

Second Inversion & A Far Cry

by Maggie Molloy

Philip Glass, Caroline Shaw, and Sarah Kirkland Snider are just a few of the composers you’ll see on the Boston-based A Far Cry‘s star-studded 2017-2018 season. This year Simone Dinnerstein premieres a new Glass piano concerto, the Miró Quartet breathes new life into Kevin Puts’ Credo, Luciana Souza lends her luminary voice to a new commission by five of today’s top women composers—and you can watch it all unfold on Second Inversion.

We are thrilled to continue our media partnership with A Far Cry this season, presenting live video streams on our website of each of their performances at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall!

Take a peek at the programs below and mark your calendars now:

Friday, September 22, 5pm PT / 8pm ET: Dinnerstein Premieres Glass
featuring Simone Dinnerstein, piano

Philip Glass: Symphony No. 3
J.S. Bach: Concerto for Keyboard and Strings in G minor, BWV 1058
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048
Glass: Piano Concerto No. 3 (New AFC Commission)


Friday, November 10, 5pm PT / 8pm ET: The Blue Hour
featuring Luciana Souza, voice

The Blue Hour, a new AFC commission by Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, Caroline Shaw, and Sarah Kirkland Snider, is an evening-length song cycle based on the poem “On Earth,” by Carolyn Forché. Delivering the vocals with A Far Cry is the luminous young jazz vocalist Luciana Souza.


Friday, January 19, 5pm PT / 8pm ET: Albion
featuring Nicholas Phan, tenor

Matthew Locke & Henry Purcell: Selections from The Tempest and The Fairy-Queen
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Concerto Grosso

Benjamin Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, Op. 31


Friday, March 30, 5pm PT / 8pm ET: Loss and Resurrection
featuring the Miró Quartet

Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet, Op. 135 (arr. AFC)
Kevin Puts: Credo (arr. AFC)
Richard Strauss: Metamorphosen, study for 23 solo strings


Friday, May 18, 5pm PT / 8pm ET: Next Generation
featuring Alexander Korsantia, piano

W. A. Mozart / Ethan Wood: Variations on “Ah! vous dirais-je, Maman”
Galina Ustvolskaya: Concerto for Piano, String Orchestra, and Timpani
Benjamin Britten: Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10

Seattle New Music Happy Hour: Tuesday, September 19 at 5:30pm

by Maggie Molloy

There’s nothing like a cold beer and a crowd of new music enthusiasts to keep you company while you wait out the rush hour traffic.

Join us Tuesday, September 19 at 5:30pm at Queen Anne Beerhall for our favorite after-work pick-me-up: New Music Happy Hour, co-hosted by Second Inversion and the Live Music Project. Bring a friend, make a friend, have a drink, and discover connections with fellow new music lovers from all over Seattle!

Click here to RSVP and invite your friends. Plus, sign up for alerts for future happy hour dates and day-before reminders so you’ll never miss a beer—er, beat.

Staff Picks: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, September 15 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

William Brittelle: Hieroglyphics Baby (New Amsterdam)

If you’re looking for some Friday night grooves, William Brittelle’s got the tune for you. “Hieroglyphics Baby” is a colorful art-pop-meets-classical mashup from his full-length, lip-synched (when live) concept album Mohair Time Warp. Tongue-in-cheek lyrics spiral through Technicolor melodies in this art music adventure that splashes through at least six musical genres in the span of three minutes. See if you can keep up. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 12pm hour today to hear this piece.


Harry Partch: “The Wind” (Second Inversion Live Recording)
Charles Corey, Harmonic Canon II and Melia Watras, bass marimba 

Having the Harry Partch instrument collection in Seattle is a benefit that cannot be overstated.  I’ve attended many of their concerts at this point, and after every single one, I walk away feeling that my ears have been stretched in a pleasant and healthful manner.  I could call the experience “musical yoga” or “aural vegetables,” but no matter how I describe it, it seems clear to me that listening to Partch, in any form, is one of the best things one can do for their listening skills. – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 4pm hour today to hear this piece, and watch our live video below!


Terry Riley: Fandango on the Heaven Ladder
Gloria Cheng, piano 
(Telarc Records) 

Terry Riley says of his Fandango on the Heaven Ladder, “It is no secret that I am wild about the music of Spain and Latin America, and since I heard my first fandango I’ve been wanting to write one. In Fandango on the Heaven Ladder, I am attempting to alternate and somewhat fuse the controlled sensuality of the romantic fandango with a somewhat melancholic chorale.”

The piece weaves in and out of fandango and melancholy, giving the impression of moving from solitude into a dreamlike soirée, only to slip back inward while stepping outside into a glassy night and hearing the sounds of the party flow out through the windows and doors. – Brendan Howe

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 7pm hour today to hear this piece.


Bruce Adolphe: Night Journey (Albany)
Musical Arts Woodwind Quintet

Any composer who sets out to write a really good wind quintet contends with inherent challenges of the instrumentation, chief among them the balance of sound between the high, light sound of the flute and the potentially low and overwhelming sound of the French horn. But they also have a beautiful, diverse palette of colors and textures open to them, and it seems to me that this 1986 work for winds makes use of these with aplomb. It’s a very enjoyable piece that moves in three main sections through bubbly counterpoint and quiet shades of repose.

Though the played-out “train chugging along through the night” concept seems to pop up incessantly in contemporary music for wind ensembles, I’m happy to give Adolphe a pass here since the piece was initially conceived with no specific inspiration in mind. The flickering colors and shifting mosaic of rhythm that characterize the music that opens and closes the piece seem to evoke a darkened nighttime landscape passing outside the window of a train, and thus the composer chose Night Journey for the title.
– Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9pm hour today to hear this piece.

From Seattle to the Sonoran Desert: Emerald City Music’s Season Opener

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by Pete Woodhead.

It’s not every day you hear the sounds of the Sonoran Desert all the way up north in Seattle—but that’s exactly what Emerald City Music has planned for their season opener this weekend.

The vogue new chamber series kicks off its second season with the world premiere of a new chamber piece by John Luther Adams titled “there is no one, not even the wind…” Inspired by the stillness and light of the American Southwest, the piece is an immersive desert soundscape scored for two flutes, strings, piano, and a whole lot of percussion (expect to hear glockenspiels, marimbas, vibraphones, and a bass drum or two).

The piece takes its title from a poem by the great Mexican poet Octavio Paz titled Piedra Nativa (Native Stone). He writes, “No hay nadie ni siquiera tú mismo.” (“There is no one, not even yourself.”) Adams takes this line one step further, removing even the wind itself.

“John Luther Adams’ work often resembles minimalism in the sense that it says as much as possible with as little as possible,” said violinist and Artistic Director Kristin Lee, who co-founded Emerald City Music with Andrew Goldstein in 2015. “It’s very ethereal, very atmospheric—often inaudible since it is so soft.”

John Luther Adams became a household name in the classical music community after the Seattle Symphony’s world premiere of Become Ocean in 2013. The 45-minute masterwork went on to win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music and the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, putting Seattle on the new music map.

“The Pacific Northwest is the most beautiful part of the country, in my opinion,” said Lee, who is performing in this weekend’s premiere. “We have the beautiful water and mountains, and the city, the sound of the people. It’s really the meeting point and the melting pot where nature and the city meets. It’s the perfect place for John Luther Adams’ music.”

Adams’ music also in many ways epitomizes Emerald City Music’s eclectic programming, which highlights new and experimental works alongside jewels of the traditional classical canon. Adams’ music famously transcends all manner of categorization, blurring the boundaries between classical, ambient, jazz, experimental, and other genres.

“John Luther Adams is one of the first, biggest examples of the post-genre world that we’re navigating,” said co-founder and Executive Director Andrew Goldstein. “The connection that his music has defies classical music, defies jazz, defies all these genres and just goes straight to touching the listener.”

Following Emerald City Music’s debut (which is made possible in part by 4Culture), the piece will tour the U.S. for performances by each of its co-commissioners: the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Camerata Pacifica, the Redlands Symphony Orchestra, and Chamber Music Northwest.

For this weekend’s Seattle and Olympia concerts, the world premiere is framed by performances of Andrew Norman’s vibrantly colored “Light Screens” and Steve Reich’s canonic, notoriously virtuosic “Nagoya Marimbas.” Also included is a violin and piano rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s iconic “America” from West Side Story, tying in with a larger overarching season theme celebrating Bernstein’s centennial. And for the traditionalists: Dvorák’s sparkling Piano Quartet in E-flat Major.

“The way that Kristin [Lee] does her programming is so much about connecting to people and letting music touch you beyond just the barriers of what classical music is,” Goldstein said. “She really allows the genre to live outside of itself a little bit.”


Emerald City Music’s performances of “there is no one, not even the wind…” are this Friday, September 15 at 8pm at 415 Westlake Ave in Seattle and Saturday, September 16 at 7:30pm at the Washington Center in Olympia. For tickets and additional information, please click here.

Happy 105th Birthday, John Cage!

by Maggie Molloy

“TV interview: if you were asked to describe yourself in three words, wha’d you say?” John Cage writes in his diary. “An open cage.”

Not all the words in the dictionary could adequately sum up the artistry and influence of John Cage’s compositional output—but those three words are a pretty good start. Today, we celebrate what would have been the 105th birthday of one of the 20th century’s most influential thinkers.

Cage was much more than just a composer—he was a pioneer of indeterminacy in music, a precursor to contemporary electroacoustic music, an innovator of musical instruments, and, perhaps most controversially, a philosopher of sound and silence.

In celebration of his his life and music, we’re counting off a handful of our favorite John Cage features on Second Inversion. Click the icons below to explore his musical musings in our John Cage Diary series, discover his works for speaking percussionist in Bonnie Whiting’s new album, take a photo tour of Jesse Myers’ prepared piano, relive the glory of last year’s Musicircus, or watch our exclusive in-studio video of So Percussion performing Living Room Music.

And how about a celebratory soundtrack? Drop by Seattle’s Ace Hotel anytime today for a 24-hour John Cage marathon in the lobby, and pick up a free copy of our John Cage Diary Zine while you’re there!